Osceola officials say homelessness at crisis level in county

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - According to officials at an Osceola County summit on homelessness the county has a crisis on its hands.

Ray Cordero spent eight months living in a hotel on U.S.192 with his girlfriend and her two children.
 
Cordero said it wasn't an inviting environment.
 
"(There were) roaches, we dealt with bed bugs, prostitution there, drugs there," said Cordero.
 
Homeless advocates gathered in Celebration on Wednesday for a summit that revealed startling facts about the homeless problem in Osceola County.
 
According to officials at the summit, the number of homeless people in the county jumped 54 percent between 2012 and 2013. There are almost 5,000 homeless people in the county and more than 3,600 of them are children.
 
"One of every 100 homeless children in America lives in Osceola County," said Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness.
 
"When you meet these families, most of them are working or want to work. They have children in our public schools, these are good folks who've just had hard times," said Bailey.
 
A report from the summit includes a series of recommendations for county leaders.
 
One of the recommendations, a pilot program called Bridge Housing, would offer temporary housing, employment assistance, child care and even help with money management for those who are homeless.
 
"It's the idea of helping someone help themself, and helping them build a bridge from homelessness to housing," said Bailey.
 
Cordero said help is desperately needed.
 
"To me, I would shut these places down. I don't think kids should be living in places like that," said Cordero.
 
According to summit officials, the number of homeless children listed in the report is based only on children registered in school ,and when you consider babies and toddlers the number is much higher.
The report also said that 40 percent of homeless families are living on less than $10,000 a year.